Friday, November 07, 2008

The corridor leading from the entrance of the house in Lucknow ended at the kitchen. It took a long L shaped turn before it reached the kitchen and it had along its length bedrooms and a living room. Its walls had old lithographs on them and from the ceiling hung green handis.

It was a dark corridor, even during the day. I would feel cold walking through it and would look behind me to see if I was being followed. The short arm of the L especially was very dark, being a dead end with no ventilation. In the kitchen, where it ended things were different though. My mother’s cakes and cookies or aromas of curries would send out warmth. Being there was like stepping in from the rain and getting a hot cup of coffee to drink and a fireplace to warm icy toes to toast.

One afternoon my mother heard footsteps. Someone was walking through the corridor. That was strange because the cook would leave by 12 noon and come back only in the evening after 5. My mother looked out of her bedroom and saw a veiled woman wearing a traditional Sharara walk towards the kitchen. When the woman passed her bedroom, my mother meant to call out to her but she told me that at that moment her throat constricted and she could not speak. Once the woman passed her my mother went to the kitchen. Whoever it was could not go out of the kitchen without first backtracking and passing her or opening the back door into the orchard. When my mother reached the kitchen there was no one there. The door was bolted from the inside. The kitchen was empty. Then my mother checked the entrance door but that too was bolted from the inside. No one could have got in. My father , who has a thief fixation, had put three bolts on every door and all three were bolted, from the inside.

My mother had first thought that it was the cook who had decided to come earlier and not wanting to disturb us, had gone straight to cook the evening meal. After finding no one in the kitchen, she thought that she had dreamed it. She later asked the cook if she had indeed somehow come. The cook looked terrified when my mother told her what had happened and was convinced that this was a omen and she was going to die. Thankfully that did not happen but my mother always wondered about what she saw. Never one to be scared of the paranormal she told the mysterious woman that she was welcome to walk the corridor anytime she pleased.

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